By the time they get to graduate school, college students are well versed in the art of writing personal statements. But, you’re not a grad student. Matter of fact, you haven’t even begun college, and the job of constructing a statement that can mean the difference between admission and rejection can be downright daunting. Not to fear. Others have travelled this road and become accomplished personal statement writers. It gets easier once you’ve written that first sentence.
- Skill level:
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Things you need
- Statement guidelines
Study the guidelines published by the colleges to which you're applying to learn what each evaluation committee looks for in a high-schooler's personal statement--e.g., word count, background data, GPA, SAT scores and more. Mark the personal statement's submission deadline on your calendar.
Interview people who have known you the longest: family members, teachers, Scout leaders, bosses and high school friends. Ask each to describe your strengths and talents. Ask them for compelling anecdotes. List service clubs, volunteering stints and other history that attests to your character and personal ethics code.
Load the first paragraph of your statement with goals and objectives you’ve set for yourself as a college student. Explain why you chose that school and how you plan to approach your academic experience. Mention legacy if grandparents, parents or siblings attended a university to which you’re applying; this may be to your benefit.
Use the second paragraph to synthesise the data you collected in Step #2. Describe your high school experiences, including extra-curricular activities and academic achievements. Use language that sounds confident, but don’t brag. Go easy on self-deprecation, as too much of this can come across the wrong way.
Be forthright about negative situations, with logical explanations when you write your personal statement. Explain why, for example, your grades dropped during your junior year because you took a part-time job to help pay bills or how an illness caused a grade nosedive. Personal statement readers are human, too.
Wrap up your personal statement with a powerful appeal for admission to the school in question. Convince committee members that they won’t be sorry if they take a chance on you as your values, commitment to education and aspirations qualify you for membership in the college-bound club.
Offer the names of people who are articulate and able to speak glowingly on your behalf when you’re asked for personal references. Leave off the name of your closest buddy from grade school--the most stand-up guy you know--if he can’t string together a coherent sentence.
Ask several people to critique your final draft after you’ve run it through your spellchecker. Double-check the word count if that’s a deal breaker. Strike clichés. Put every sentence to this test: Is it original, sincere and compelling? Answer yes, and it’s ready to be mailed.
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